The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria
Chapter 5. The Demons: Exorcisms And Ceremonies
Good and evil spirits, gods and demons, were fully believed in by the Babylonians and
Assyrians, and many texts referring to them exist. Naturally it is not in some cases easy to
distinguish well between the special functions of these supernatural appearances which
they supposed to exist, but their nature is, in most cases, easily ascertained from the
To all appearance, the Babylonians imagined that spirits resided everywhere, and lay in
wait to attack mankind, and to each class, apparently, a special province in bringing
misfortune, or tormenting, or causing pain and sickness, was assigned. All the spirits,
however, were not evil, even those whose names would suggest that their character was
such--there were good "liers in wait," for instance, as well as evil ones, whose attitude
towards mankind was beneficent.
The /utukku/. This was a spirit which was supposed to do the will of Anu, the god of the
heavens. There was the /utukku/ of the plain, the mountains, the sea, and the grave.
The /alu/. Regarded as the demon of the storm, and possibly, in its origin, the same as the
divine bull sent by Istar to attack Gilgames, and killed by Enki-du. It spread itself over a
man, overpowering him upon his bed, and attacking his breast.
The /edimmu/. This is generally, but wrongly, read /ekimmu/, and translated "the seizer,"
from /ekemu/, "to seize." In reality, however, it was an ordinary spirit, and the word is
used for the wraiths of the departed. The "evil /edimmu/" was apparently regarded as
attacking the middle part of a man.
The /gallu/. As this word is borrowed from the Sumerian /galla/, which has a dialectic
form, /mulla/, it is not improbable that it may be connected with the word /mula/,
meaning "star," and suggesting something which is visible by the light it gives--possibly
a will-o'- the-wisp,--though others are inclined to regard the word as being connected
with /gala/, "great." In any case, its meaning seems to have become very similar to "evil
spirit" or "devil" in general, and is an epithet applied by the Assyrian king Assur-bani-
apli to Te-umman, the Elamite king against whom he fought.
The /ilu limnu/, "evil god," was probably originally one of the deities of Tiawath's brood,
upon whom Merodach's redemption had had no effect.
The /rabisu/ is regarded as a spirit which lay in wait to pounce upon his prey.
The /labartu/, in Sumerian /dimme/, was a female demon. There were seven evil spirits of
this kind, who were apparently regarded as being daughters of Anu, the god of the